Here’s how I created custom vinyl stickers for my motorcycle helmet. I was inspired by hand painted helmet designs and chose brush script lettering to communicate my two most common thoughts about drivers while riding my motorcycle in NYC. For single-color designs like mine, you don’t need a big vinyl printer, just a hobby vinyl cutter will work fabulously. I was visiting the Pier 9 Autodesk workshop and used the Roland VersaCAMM printer/cutter because it was available. Alternatively, you could bring your sticker design files to a local sign printing shop for printing/cutting.
For this project, I used:
- Vinyl sticker printer/cutter and sticker vinyl
- Wide roll of masking tape
- Utility knife
- Cutting mat
- Rubbing alcohol
- Paper towels
- Clear acrylic spray and safe spray area (+respiratory protection)
- Plastic card for pressure-scraping (credit/loyalty card/etc.)
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Design Your Stickers
Search online for “free brush lettering font” for ideas on what type to use in your stickers, and add them to your font library. I used Adobe Illustrator to design my stickers, but any other vector program should work too, like Inkscape, or cutter-specific software like Cricut DesignStudio, Sure Cuts A Lot, or Make The Cut. To get the text ready for cutting, you must outline the text and unite any overlapping letterforms (pathfinder tool in Illustrator) to create one continuous cut line around the outer edge of the word/letter shapes.
I wanted to give my letterforms some shaping. I thought this would make the words fit better on the round helmet, but it’s totally optional. I used the direct select tool (white arrow) to draw a box around the letters I wanted to move, adding/removing any stray endpoints by holding down Shift and clicking on each. I then used the arrow keys to nudge these letters up or down, and repeated with other letters until I was happy with the design.
You can download my eps sticker designs from this step.
Print and Cut Stickers
Next I loaded my files into the print/cut manager software, verified all my settings, and printed the stickers on white vinyl. I could have skipped the printing if I used black vinyl instead! But the printer does allow for unique designs with many colors. Next the Roland VersaCAMM used it’s blade to cut the files’ cutlines.
Because my stickers are printed, I wanted to protect the ink from physical wear with a clear coat of acrylic spray (used in a spray booth or with other respiratory protection).
Peel and Mask
Next up, I peeled the stickers’ surrounding vinyl from the sheet. I lost some dots and details in this process, but was able to create new dots (for the ‘i’s) later. After all the excess vinyl has been removed (tweezers are very helpful here), I masked the stickers with a giant roll of masking tape. This makes placement a breeze after removing the sticky backing!
Prep Your Surface
I took this project as an opportunity to clean all the helmets in the house with rubbing alcohol. Yuck! Your sticker surface should be very clean and dry before attempting to stick on any stickers. A clean surface will make your sticker last far longer!
Place & Peel
I figured out where I wanted the sticker to go, and cut it into smaller pieces to make it easier to manage. After peeling off the sticker’s backing, I found a few stray pieces of vinyl that didn’t get removed in a previous step, and had to pick them out with tweezers, carefully.
It’s time to commit! Line up your sticker, and try to place it starting with the center or one end, then run your finger down the centerline of the sticker along its length before working your way out to the edges. Sometimes a cut in the masking tape is necessary to accomodate the helmet curve without bending the sticker. Use a plastic card as a scraper to press down the sticker through the masking tape before peeling it up to reveal your new fresh design!
I often find insensitive drivers all up in my business on city streets, seemingly oblivious to my frail humanity as they shamelessly merge and text, which is why I chose to put the phrases “drivers are terrifying” and “put the phone down” on my helmet, while my boyfriend preferred a more subtle effect with a classic diamond. Got any cool helmet sticker ideas? Put them in the comments!
Thanks for reading! Here are some more of my bike projects:
- Chain Tension Adjustment on Vintage Honda Motorcycles
- Matte Finish Motorcycle Tank Painting
- Vintage Motorcycle Seat Restoration
- Throttle Cable Replacement
- Petcock Replacement
- Distressed Motorcycle Headlight
- Film a Motorcycle